Queen Gives Royal Assent to Marriage Equality Bill
July 17th, 2013
Lawmakers cheered as House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said royal assent had been given — one day after the bill to legalize same-sex marriage in England and Wales cleared Parliament. The queen’s approval was a formality and is the last step necessary for a bill to become law.
Marriages are expected to begin sometime in the summer of 2014.
Then They Came for My Boutonniere
July 16th, 2013
The staunchly anti-gay, ironically-named website Anglican Mainstream has reacted to today’s approval of Britain’s marriage equality bill:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.
Because marriage equality is JUST LIKE THE HOLOCAUST, PEOPLE!
UK Marriage Equality Bill Clears Final Hurdle
July 16th, 2013
It’s a done deal. The House of Commons gave its final approval to the bill after minor changes were made by the House of Lords, which approved the bill on Monday. But not before marriage equality opponents tried a last ditch effort to ditch the bill:
Conservative MP David Burrowes had tabled an amendment and was today once again accused of trying to delay implementation of the bill. Pro-equal marriage MPs padded out their speeches so that Mr Burrowes could not propose his amendment.
The amendment he tabled sought to force the government to hold individual public consultations for changes to secondary legislation.
The bill now goes to the Queen for Royal Assent. No monarch has withheld Royal Assent since 1708.
Same-sex marriages are expected to begin in the spring or summer in 2014 in England and Wales only. Legislation to allow marriage equality in Scotland is in its initial stages. There are currently no efforts underway as yet to institute marriage equality in Northern Ireland.
(By the way, when I went to Google Images looking for an appropriate image for this post, I typed “Big Ben Gay” into the search box. This image popped up, accompanied by hundreds of results for Ben Cohen. Which is appropriate when you think about it, since today’s news clears just one more obstacle to our obvious destiny of wedded bliss together.)
UK Marriage Equality Bill Survives Report Stage in House of Lords
July 10th, 2013
The British House of Lords concluded its examination of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at the Report Stage, and has scheduled the bill for its Third (and final) Reading on July 15. The Lords turned back several key amendments which would have either wrecked the bill altogether or delayed its implementation.
One “wrecking” amendment which would have created a two-teir marriage law, was withdrawn earlier in the day. Another set of amendments, proposed by Lord Indarjit Singh of Wimbledon would have required that the entire bill be put to voters in England and Wales in an October referendum before it can take effect. After intense debate, during which Lord Singh cited the discredited Regnerus study, he eventually withdrew the amendment before it was called for a vote. And another set of proposed amendments from Baroness Ruth Deech would have extend all tax and other benefits of civil partnerships to all care givers and family members who share a house. Those amendments were soundly defeated in a 267-89 vote.
UK Marriage Bill Clears Hurdle In House of Lords
June 4th, 2013
Following two days of debate, peers in the British House of Lords voted down a proposed wrecking amendment, 390 to 148. The Guardian notes that it is highly unusual to block a vote at second reading and that many of the votes in favor at this stage may merely be in indication by some that they oppose blocking the bill this way. Nevertheless, the comfortable 242 vote margin bodes well for the bill now that it has been forwarded to the Committee Stage. There may still be amendments attached to the bill which would send it back to Commons, but at this stage it looks increasingly certain that the bill will make it into law before next summer.
During the debate, Lord Waheed Alli, an openly gay Muslim Labour peer, congratuated Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron for his “courageous” support for marriage equality:
“I ask you vote for this bill because everyone deserves the right to have their love recognised equally by the state.” Lord Alli added he was “proud” that “so many” Conservative MPs voted for the bill at last month’s third reading in the House of Commons. “There can be no doubt that David Cameron has shown a huge amount of personal courage”, he said.
…He spearheaded the campaign to repeal Section 28, which banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools and also fought to equalise the age of consent. It was during a heated exchange with conservative opponents, led by Baroness Young, that he informed his fellow peers that he was gay in April 1999.
In yesterday’s debate, Baroness Liz Barker (Lib-Dem) spoke in favor of the bill and publicly came out of the closet at the same time:
The Liberal Democrat peer, who was among the first to speak, said she had to “declare an interest”. “Many years ago, I had the great good fortune to meet someone,” she said. “She and I have loved each other ever since.”
How To Spot A Swivel-Eyed Loon
May 22nd, 2013
Habitat: Generally to be found lurking in the grass roots, especially near local Conservative associations and seaside shopping precincts in the home counties and the south-west. Due to loss of habitat, however, they are increasingly sighted across England, going door to door for Ukip. Extinct in Scotland. (UKIP is the UK Independence Party, an anti-immigrant and euroskeptic party which, according to opinion polls, is now tied with the Conservatives). …
Behaviour in the wild: Antic, with eyes that gyrate as if on swivels. Extremely vocal at this time of year, with a shrill cry, generally a long-winded lament about Britain going to hell in a handcart thanks to immigrants, the aggressive gay community, gay immigrants, out-of-touch ministers, urban metrosexual elites and Europe. Also rails against political correctness, while simultaneously getting offended by the term “swivel-eyed loon”.
Behaviour in captivity: Tame, with a fixed smile and a steady gaze. Call reduced to soft, seemingly reasonable warble. Will patiently explain that hatred of immigrants is nothing to do with racism, nor does a firm stand against gay marriage constitute prejudice. Insists that restoring the economy by slashing public services and killing off growth should take priority over basic equality, for ever.
British Prime Minister David Cameron got into hot water over the weekend when it was reported that an un-named senior member of the government called Conservative grass-roots activists “swivel-eyed loons” over their increasingly strident anti-immigrant and anti-gay stances. With those reports coming just ahead of yesterday’s vote on a marriage equality bill, which, when combined with last week’s refusal by the ruling coalition to call a referendum in remaining in the European Union, are leaving party loyalists openly criticizing their party leader for opening a fracture between the Government and the party’s grass roots.
British Commons Approves Marriage Equality Bill
May 21st, 2013
In the end, it was Labour who saved the day for marriage equality — and for Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, whose party turned against him in the final vote on the same-sex marriage bill in Commons today. The vote wasn’t close — 366 to 161 — but the Tory vote went against their own party leader, 117-133. Already, British papers are talking about a considerably weakened Prime Minister, who was already playing defense after an associate characterized disgruntled Euro-skeptics and social conservatives in the party as “swivel-eyed loons.” (Nobody does political rhetoric like the British.)
The bill now goes to the House of Lords, where efforts to kill it are expected to continue. If it does manage to survive the upper House, marriage equality may arrive in England and Wales as early as the summer of 2014.
Last Minute Bid to Sink Marriage Bill Fails in British Commons
May 20th, 2013
Rebellious Tories were unsuccessful in their last minute attempt to insert a poison pill into the marriage equality bill which is undergoing its report stage in the British House of Commons. Marriage equality opponent MP Tim Loughton (Con), for the first time in his entire political career, decided that gays and straights should be treated under British law — but not through marriage equality itself by by making civil partnerships available to heterosexual couples. Prime Minister David Cameron’s government countered that doing so at this late stage would greatly complicate matters and impose a huge potential cost to the treasury (£4 billion, by the government’s back-of-the-envelope estimate) if all of those unmarried heterosexual couples, widows and widowers suddenly began demanding their pensions. The net effect, said the government, is that the bill would have been returned to its consultation phase and guarantee that it would not be returned to Parliament for another five years or so.
Loughton’s amendment posed a serious threat to the marriage bill as about 150 Conservative MP’s threatened to support it, while many Liberal-Democrat and Labour MPs had long been on record supporting heterosexual access to civil partnerships. Together, they could have very easily attached Loughton’s amendment to the bill and forced its multi-year delay. But Labour Party leaders came in to save the day by offering a change to a clause sponsored by Conservative MP Maria Miller which calls for a review to take place to study potential future legislation to open civil partnerships to heterosexual couples (or, alternatively, to possible abolish civil partnerships altogether). Under Miller’s clause, that review was to take place after five years, but Labour proposed an amendment to allow the review to begin immediately. That compromise allowed Labour and Lib-Dem MP’s to abandon Laughton’s amendment while keeping their commitment to equality for civil partnerships intact. Miller’s clause (known as New Clause 16) cleared the Commons in a 391-57 vote at about 10:15 p.m. BST (5:15 EDT), with the Labour amendment passing by acclamation minutes later. About fifteen minutes later, Loughton’s amendment was defeated in a 375-70 vote.
Earlier in the evening, three other amendments which were proposed by marriage equality opponents also went down in defeat with similar margins. One proposed clause would have allowed registrars to refuse to conduct a same-sex wedding on “conscientious objection” grounds. That clause was defeated 340-150. Another clause, which would have made beleif in marriage as between one man and one woman a “protected characteristic of religion” under the Equality Act of 2010, wend down in a 339-148 vote. (MP Chris Bryant (Labour), a former vicar, objected, saying that the clause was unnecessary because other religious beliefs (virgin birth, transubstantiation, etc.) are also not called out inthe Equality Act.) Another clause, which would have added more exemptions to a clause which prohibits penalties for chaplains and other clergy who refuse to conduct same-sex marriages, was also defeated, 321-163.
There will be more votes tomorrow in the Commons, where the bill will also get its third and final readying before being sent to the House of Lords. According to The Guardian:
The gay marriage bill has survived its greatest threat (so far) in its passage through parliament… There will be further votes in the Commons tomorrow, when the bill will also get a third reading, but the government should win those easily. The next big threat will be in the Lords, where many peers are opposed to the legislation. But the Commons passed the bill at second reading with a majority of 225 and tonight Loughton’s amendment was defeated by a majority of 305. The size of these majorities makes it hard to see how the Lords can block the bill.
The Daily Agenda for Monday, May 20
May 20th, 2013
British Parliament Resumes Work on Marriage Bill: London, UK. About 150 Tories poised to enter into full rebellion as Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s government pushes ahead to bring up the marriage equality for its report stage in the Commons today. That rebellion is being compounded by an amendment being proposed by marriage equality opponent Tim Loughton, which would grant civil partnerships to heterosexual couples. Cameron’s government accuses Labour MPs of supporting the amendment, which the government says would cost the government £4 billion in pension liabilities and force a delay of up to two years to work out the legalities of implementing civil partnerships across the board, and would therefore become a poison pill which imperils the legislation altogether. But Labour sources told The Guardian that Conservative warnings about the amendment’s costs are “farcical”, saying “They are wrecking this bill themselves and trying to blame others.” If the bill survives today’s Report stage, it will then go on to a third and final reading in Commons before going to the House of Lords for consideration.
March and Rally In Response to Mark Carson’s Murder: New York, NY. Over the weekend, a gunman shot and killed thirty-two-year-old Mark Carson after being followed by three men shouting anti-gay epithets. Elliot Morales, 32, was arrested and charged with the murder. The LGBT Center will hold a march to the crime scene and a rally. The march will begin at 5:30 p.m. beginning at the Center, 208 W 13th Street, and proceed to West 8th Street and 6th Avenue where the shooting occurred. Several elected officials, LGBT community leaders and allies will be on hand to call for an end to the escalating number of anti-LGBT hate crimes that have been occurring in New York City over the past several weeks. You can find more information at the event’s Facebook page.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
30 YEARS AGO: AIDS Virus Identified: 1983. In a paper published in the US journal Science, a team from France’s Pasteur Institute, led by Luc Montagnier, described a suspect virus which had been isolated in a patient who had died of AIDS. Montagnier’s groundbreaking work led to the determination by US researcher Robert Gallo in 1984 that the virus was indeed the cause of AIDS. Gallo named his virus HTLV-III, and promptly claimed credit for discovering the virus. But the rest of the world began calling it the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV. A three year acrimonious spat between Gallo and Montagnier ensued over who was the first to discover it. The dispute was finally settled after intensive negotiations resulting in both parties being awarded credit, and everyone lived happily ever after. As it were.
Romer v. Evans: 1996. On this date, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the landmark decision striking down Colorado’s Amendment 2 to the state constitution which would have disenfranchised that state’s LGBT citizens from the right to petition their state and local governments for laws banning discrimination. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, rejected Amendment 2 supporter’s arguments that the ban on anti-discrimination laws were meant solely to deny LGBT people “special rights”:
we cannot accept the view that Amendment 2′s prohibition on specific legal protections does no more than deprive homosexuals of special rights. To the contrary, the amendment imposes a special disability upon those persons alone. Homosexuals are forbidden the safeguards that others enjoy or may seek without constraint. They can obtain specific protection against discrimination only by enlisting the citizenry of Colorado to amend the State Constitution or perhaps, on the State’s view, by trying to pass helpful laws of general applicability. This is so no matter how local or discrete the harm, no matter how public and widespread the injury. We find nothing special in the protections Amendment 2 withholds. These are protections taken for granted by most people either because they already have them or do not need them; these are protections against exclusion from an almost limitless number of transactions and endeavors that constitute ordinary civic life in a free society.
…(Amendment 2) is at once too narrow and too broad. It identifies persons by a single trait and then denies them protection across the board. The resulting disqualification of a class of persons from the right to seek specific protection from the law is unprecedented in our jurisprudence. …We must conclude that Amendment 2 classifies homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else. This Colorado cannot do. A State cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws. Amendment 2 violates the Equal Protection Clause, and the judgment of the Supreme Court of Colorado is affirmed.
Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer joined Kennedy in the majority opinion.
Dissenting justice Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas, considered Colorado’s attempt to disenfranchise an entire class of people “unimpeachable under any constitutional doctrine hitherto pronounced.” Pointing to the Bowers v Hardwick, the 1986 Supreme Court Decision which declared that sodomy laws were constitutional, Scalia wrote, “If it is rational to criminalize the conduct, surely it is rational to deny special favor and protection to those with a self-avowed tendency or desire to engage in the conduct.” Seven years later, the Court would correct that contradiction in Lawrence v Texas, which finally struck down anti-sodomy laws in the 13 states where such laws were still in effect.
Cher: 1946. She started out as one-half of the husband-and-wife singing duo Sonny & Cher with their 1965 hit, “I Got You Babe.” After a string of hits and a popular television series, their marriage ended and Cher’s solo singing career took off. She also became an Academy Award winning actress, winning a Best Actress award for her role in 1987′s Moonstruck. In 2002, Cher began her Farewell Tour, after which she said she would retire from show business. The tour lasted three years, and at some point she re-named it the “Never Can Say Goodbye” Tour. But in 2005, she finally retired the show and retired herself. Then she retired from retirement in February 2008 for a show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas which lasted until February 2011. A year later, she announced via Twitter that should she would embark on another tour beginning in September 2012. A recent single from the Burlesque soundtrack is fitting: “You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me.”
If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).
And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?
The Muslims Who Love The Gays
February 11th, 2013
Last week’s historic vote on gay marriage in the British House of Commons was noteworthy not just for the quality of the speeches, such as this one by MP David Lammy, but also for how Muslim MPs voted.
Five Labour Muslim MPs supported gay marriage as did one Conservative. Three other MPs who could not attend had previously stated their support, two Conservatives and one Labour. Only one Muslim MP, the Conservative Rehman Chisti, joined the scores of MPs citing ‘religious grounds’ in their opposition.
Many MPs explicitly said that they took their orders from the Vatican, or cited Bible verses in the debate. That seven out of eight Muslim MPs did the opposite should be better known. It’s unfortunate that it is not as it would probably surprise many, although it should not.
Muslim MPs only arrived in any numbers in Britain at the last election but both locally in Britain as well as in other Western democracies numerous Muslim politicians have shown themselves to be gay friendly and supportive of LGBT rights. The sole Muslim member of the US House of Representatives, Keith Ellison, has a 100% Rating from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). HRC President Joe Solmonese calls him “a true champion”.
Although senior Muslim organizations joined the opposition led by the English and Scottish Catholic Churches to the marriage bill, you would hardly know it — a source of anger to some Muslims. In contrast to various Bishops, there have been no headlines about the latest outrageous statement from prominent Muslim clerics claiming that civilization is about to end.
Why not? Perhaps because any assumption that British Muslims are opposed to LGBT equality is somewhat dashed not just by these MPs actions but also by polls. One in 2011 found that British Muslims are more likely to strongly agree with the statement ‘I am proud of how Britain treats gay people’ than are people of no religion. Only Sikhs were more likely to strongly agree.
According to journalist Brian Whitaker:
However much Muslims may disapprove of gay sex, opposing discrimination on principle serves the interests of Muslims and gay people alike.
He notes that the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the major representative body, formally declared its support in 2007 for the Equality Act outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The MPs who votes for gay marriage supported the position made by the most senior Muslim MP, Sadiq Khan, the Shadow Justice Secretary, who said he voted in favor of the legislation “because I believe that this is fundamentally an issue of equality.”
One, Nadhim Zahawi, made a point in debating a Christian Same-Sex Marriage MP opponent from his own Conservative Party, arguing, like Prime Minister David Cameron has, that:
“I think as Conservatives we should be supporting civil partnerships moving towards marriage between a man and a man, and a woman and a woman, because having a fabric of society that is held together by strong relationships is a conservative value.”
Several of the MPs represent large Muslim communities, such as Rushanara Ali in East London. Her seat was famously won by the anti-Iraq war left-wing MP George Galloway after Labour kicked him out and he formed the Respect Party as an odd coalition between Trotskyists and Muslims. Galloway, now representing a different seat, voted in favor of gay marriage, and that doesn’t seem to have gone down well with East London Respect supporters.
Galloway was accused in the 2010 election campaign by Peter Tatchell of appeasing homophobic sections of the Muslim community. MPs like Rushanara Ali may well see some dirty tricks, and may well lose local support in the 2015 election, because of their gay marriage vote.
Homosexuality and Islam has recently come right to the fore in Britain as an issue for Muslim communities, highlighted by a long running storyline about a gay Muslim character in the top rating soap opera East Enders, as well as numerous stories running on the the BBC’s radio network catering for Britain’s Asian communities.
So it’s not surprising that the Labour MP’s vote is, away from the mainstream media spotlight, causing some consternation, and not just in the UK but also in Pakistan, from where much of Britain’s Muslim population originates.
Others are arguing that, as the writer Abdullah al Andalusi puts it, the MPs actions just shows why voting and Western-style politics is not something that good Muslims should engage in. It’s all corruption. Voting is “intellectual inconsistent with the concept of sovereignty to God alone (not man) but naive, and self-defeating”, he writes.
But there are also many comments like this one wondering why Muslims are in a lather about this issue and not ‘more important’ ones:
Why is it that the Muslim community wakes up and turns their attention to Muslim MPs on non-issues that quite frankly doesn’t really affect their society at large. BUT chooses to sleep when Muslim MPs make efforts to build strategies to improve general society at large that have a direct impact on the Muslim community?
In short, people are comfortable sitting on their sofas bad-mouthing MPs on non-issues but can’t stand up and show support for our Muslim MPs on day-to-day issues that affect them directly. It doesn’t always have to be religious issues you know everyone has a duty to serve society in general regardless of creed.
Please tell me, am I missing something here.
Muslim politicians everywhere in the West have battled assumptions about their political views from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Kamal Qureshi, a Member of the Danish Parliament, says that:
Because I have a Muslim background people kept expecting me to have a certain attitude. Equal rights were one of my issues, and soon LGBT rights became my issue. I was one of the first people to attend a gay parade in Denmark who was not gay himself. At first there was opposition within the Parliament and even within my own party, but I said that this was an opportunity to make clear if we really believed in equality or if we did not. And after struggle my party (Socialist People’s Party) accepted this.
Gay marriage backer Saqib Ali, a Representative in Maryland, says that his position is nothing to do with his faith in Islam but a decision he made as a politician representing his constituents with and without faith backgrounds:
If I tried to enforce religion by law – as in a theocracy – I would be doing a disservice to both my constituents and to my religion.
After Scottish Muslim clerics called for pro-gay marriage politicians to be voted against, Hanzala Malik, a Labour member of the Scottish parliament, said that although they had every right to their opinions:
People of any community are living in the real world and want more than a single view on faith to be the focus of an elected representative. The Muslim community expects others to give us freedom so why would we deny it to others? And to say this could affect the outcome of the election is just pie in the sky.
Threats of vote-denial or being called names is not, unfortunately, the only risk which some Muslim politicians have taken to support LGBT rights. The Dutch MP Ahmed Marcouch has been called a traitor for his encouragement of integration and his prize winning work promoting gay rights in the Moroccan community in the Netherlands.
In 2004 the Hijab-wearing NDP candidate Itrath Syed in Vancouver was excommunicated along with her parents from her local Mosque, one they had helped to build, because of her politics. In an angry open letter she argued that:
Muslims in Canada must be clear that we can not demand our own equality in Canada, our own rights to be who we are, while also calling for the rights of others to be restricted. If the principle of equality under Canadian law is compromised, it will be compromised for all minority communities.
I am not running for leadership of the Muslim community, I am running for a position in Canadian government. I am not asked about my religious views, I am asked about my views on Canadian law. These are two completely separate things. As we all know because we make those distinctions every day of our lives.
The stories of these pro-gay British Muslim MPs as well as the others I’ve cited as well as many more around Europe deserve to be better known. But it should also be pointed out that, like the British Conservative politician Chisti, there are also others in conservative parties who aren’t supportive of marriage equality — but that’s because of their politics. People like the very prominent Dutch Muslim Christian Democrat MP Coşkun Çörüz.
And then there is Alabama State Rep. Yusuf Salaam, the Democratic politician who introduced a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage…
Lammy in the British parliament debate
February 8th, 2013
This is a bit late, but well worth listening to:
What I find fascinating is that certain events take on a global importance. As MP Lammy discusses Rosa Parks, you can sense how a tiny moment of personal dignity can change the world.
Marriage Bill Formally Introduced in British Parliament
January 24th, 2013
As expected, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was formally introduced in Parliament, kicking off a process which is expected to lead to a second reading on February 5. The legislation will prohibit the Church of England from marrying same-sex couples, but will allow all other religious denominations to provide it if they so choose. According to the BBC, religious groups supporting the bill include Quakers, Unitarians and Reformed Judaism.
The bill will be officially published on Friday ahead of Tuesday’s debate. The bill has divided Conservatives, with David Cameron giving his M.P.s a free vote on the bill. If the bill passes its second reading, it will then go to a committee for further evaluation before returning to the House for its third and final reading. It will then go to the House of Lords.
British Evangelical Pastor Endorses Same-Sex Marriage
January 16th, 2013
I’m not familiar with Rev. Steve Chalke, pastor of Waterloo’s Oasis Church, but The Independent describes him as “a prominent evangelical pastor.” Chalke has posted a lengthy explanation (one that he calls “abridged”) on his web site which discusses the UK government’s plan to extend marriage to same-sex couple. Saying that he feels “both compelled and afraid to write this article,” and after laying out a few caveats (“Promiscuity is always damaging and dehumanising,” for example), he then jumps into the heart of his message:
One tragic outworking of the Church’s historical rejection of faithful gay relationships is our failure to provide homosexual people with any model of how to cope with their sexuality, except for those who have the gift of, or capacity for, celibacy. In this way we have left people vulnerable and isolated. When we refuse to make room for gay people to live in loving, stable relationships, we consign them to lives of loneness, secrecy and fear. It’s one thing to be critical of a promiscuous lifestyle – but shouldn’t the Church consider nurturing positive models for permanent and monogamous homosexual relationships?
In autumn 2012 I conducted a dedication and blessing service following the Civil Partnership of two wonderful gay Christians. Why? Not to challenge the traditional understanding of marriage – far from it – but to extend to these people what I would do to others – the love and support of our local Church.
Chalke spends the bulk of his essay exploring many of the Biblical passages which have been used to justify rejection of gay people. He also explores the Bible’s treatment of women’s roles and slavery and wonders why the church today applies a different standard to those passages from the one they apply to others. Then he gets to why he believes its important for the church to get its act together and understand the damages that its inconsistent readings have caused:
Why am I so passionate about this issue? Because people’s lives are at stake. Numerous studies show that suicide rates among gay people, especially young people, are comparatively high. Church leaders sometimes use this data to argue that homosexuality is unhealthy when tragically it’s anti-gay stigma, propped up by Church attitudes, which, all too often, drives these statistics.
I believe that when we treat homosexual people as pariahs and push them outside our communities and churches; when we blame them for what they are; when we deny them our blessing on their commitment to lifelong, faithful relationships, we make them doubt whether they are children of God, made in his image.
So, I face a hard choice; a choice between the current dominant view of what scripture tells us about this issue and the one I honestly think it points us to. This is why I seek to speak and write openly and, I hope, graciously, to encourage a compassionate, respectful and honest conversation that might lead to our churches becoming beacons of inclusion.
Euro Court: Religious Beliefs Don’t Justify Discrimination
January 15th, 2013
In four cases brought by people who say their Christian beliefs prohibit them from providing services to same-sex couples, the European Court of Human Rights ruled today that their beliefs do not justify discrimination. The ruling upheld British laws which ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. According to a press release from the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights:
In the first case, Lillian Ladele was a civil registrar in London. She was dismissed because she refused officiating at civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples after it became legal in 2005. She claimed she was discriminated because of her faith.
The Court ruled there had been no discrimination, and that British courts—who upheld her dismissal—had struck the right balance between her right to freedom of religion, and same-sex couples’ right not to be discriminated.
In the second case, Gary McFarlane was a counsellor providing psycho-sexual therapy to couples. He was dismissed for refusing to work with same-sex couples, arguing this was incompatible with his beliefs. The Court ruled unanimously that there had been no violation of his right to freedom of belief.
The ruling may be appealed within the next three months.
Update: Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is mentioned in the official ruling (PDF: 515KB/53 pages) as a third party intervener.
England’s marriage law to include church weddings
December 10th, 2012
I’m a massive supporter of marriage and I don’t want gay people to be excluded from a great institution.
“But let me be absolutely 100 per cent clear – if there is any church or any synagogue or any mosque that doesn’t want to have a gay marriage it will not, absolutely must not, be forced to hold it.
This is expected to face opposition from the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church along with conservative members of his own party. It had been the government’s intent to allow same-sex marriages only in civil settings (much like civil unions) but protest by Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews led to the “opt-in” provision.
The legislation is expected to be considered before the end of 2013.
Britain Suspends All Foreign Aid To Uganda
November 18th, 2012
Aid to the Ugandan prime minister’s office was frozen in August, following allegations of fraud, while an independent forensic audit was ordered. Greening has now suspended other bilateral aid, which is spent through Uganda‘s financial systems, known as direct financial aid.
…”Britain has frozen all UK aid spent through the Ugandan government. This is a result of initial evidence emerging from our ongoing forensic audit of the office of the prime minister, which indicates aid money may have been misused,” said DfID. “We are extremely concerned by these preliminary findings and we will assess the decision further when we have considered the full findings of the report. Unless the government of Uganda can show that UK taxpayers’ money is going towards helping the poorest people lift themselves out of poverty, this aid will remain frozen and we will expect repayment and administrative and criminal sanctions.”
Auditors discovered that joint foreign aid funding from Ireland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden to the tune of €12 million (£10 million, US$15 million) have mysteriously shown up in the private bank accounts of officials in prime minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi’s office. Those countries and Britain suspended its aid to the Prime Minister’s office in August, and Britain has now expanded that freeze to include the entire Ugandan government. Britain was due to provide £11.1 million (US$17.7 million) in direct aid between now and the end of March. Total bilateral aid for the year was set for £98.9 million (US$157 million), but it’s not clear how much of that bilateral aid has already been spent.
British Mental Health Group Calls Conversion Therapy Unethical
October 2nd, 2012
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the U.K.’s largest professional organization for psychotherapists, has issued a new policy statement (PDF: 627KB/1 page) which reminds members that “there is no scientific, rational or ethical reason” to try to change someone’s sexual orientation:
The British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) is dedicated to social diversity, equality and inclusivity of treatment without discrimination of any kind. BACP opposes any psychological treatment such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder, or based on the premise that the client/patient should change his/her sexuality.
BACP recognises the PAHO/WHO (2012) recent position statement that practices such as conversion or reparative therapies ‘have no medical indication and represent a severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons’.
BACP recognises that the diversity of human sexualities is compatible with normal mental health and social adjustment (Royal College of Psychiatrists). A recent research review (King, et al 2007) showed that those who do not identify as heterosexual may be misunderstood by some therapists, who see the client/patient’s sexuality as the root cause of their presenting issue. The ability to appreciate differences between people, to commit to equality of opportunity, and to avoid discrimination against people or groups contrary to their legitimate personal or social circumstances, is central to ethical and professional practice (BACP 2010, Ethical Framework).
BACP believes that socially inclusive, non-judgemental attitudes to people who identify across the diverse range of human sexualities will have positive consequences for those individuals, as well as for the wider society in which they live. There is no scientific, rational or ethical reason to treat people who identify within a range of human sexualities any differently from those who identify solely as heterosexual.
The BACP cites a recent statement from the Pan American Health Organization which called on governments to impose “adequate sanctions” against Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE), which PAHO said, “health professionals who offer ‘reparative therapies’ align themselves with social prejudices and reflect a stark ignorance in matters of sexuality and sexual health.”
In 2010, the British Medical Association approved a motion saying the National Health Service should not fund SOCE. That statement came after a reporter for The Independent went undercover and reported on a NARTH-affiliated therapist who offered SOCE. In the first session, the therapist sought to uncover the source of the reporter’s homosexuality by asking about childhood neglect, whether he had a difficult birth, and whether anyone in the family practiced Freemasonry. That therapist, later identified as Lesley Pilkington, was expelled from the BACP last May for professional malpractice.
UK To Cut Aid To Countries Which Persecute Gay People
October 10th, 2011
British Prime Minister David Cameron has warned that countries which persecute gay people will find their foreign aid budget cut. International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell also told the Daily Mail that Britain has already cut aid to Malawi over it abuse of human right violation, citing the country’s conviction of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, a same-sex couple who entered into a traditional engagement ceremony in violation of that nation’s anti-sodomy laws.
Mitchell’s comments however don’t quite line up with the chain of events in Malawi. The couple were pardoned by Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika in May, 2010. Earlier this year, a Wikileaks cable revealed that the British ambassador warned that Malawi’s President was becoming increasingly autocratic and intolerant of criticism. Mutharika responded by expelling the ambassador while violently cracking down on dissent in the impoverished nation, thereby proving the ambassador’s point. Britain began cutting aid to Malawi in July 2011.
Malawi received about £200 million from Britain over the past three years, before Britain announced cuts of £19 million.
Mitchell also cited Uganda (which is due to received £70 million this year) and Ghana (which received £36 million each year) as possible targets for future cuts if they enact further criminal legislation against gay people. No mention was made of Zimbabwe, which received £69 million last year.
UK Reverses Decision To Deny Visa To Ugandan LGBT Advocate
August 22nd, 2011
Last week, we reported that Britain’s Border Agency (UKBA) has denied a visa for Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) founder and executive Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, who was scheduled to open a pride celebration in Derry, Northern Ireland later this month. Today, Paul Canning reports that UKBA has reversed its decision and granted Kasha a visa:
Kasha was today granted a visa to visit Northern Ireland. When reapplying in Kampala she reports it being granted extremely quickly. We understand that there has been significant lobbying regarding the previous visa denial, in particular of the UK Foreign Office.
UK Denies Visa for Ugandan LGBT Advocate
August 18th, 2011
Britain’s Border Agency (UKBA) has denied a visa for Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) founder and executive Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, who was scheduled to open a pride celebration in Derry, Northern Ireland later this month. Paul Canning reports that a UKBA spokesperson said that her visa was denied because Immigration officials feared that she might not return home after travelling to Britain. According to that spokesperson:
Each application to enter the UK is considered on its individual merits and in accordance with the immigration rules”.
“The onus is on the applicant to demonstrate that they meet the immigration rules. This may include providing evidence of financial ties to their home country which would indicate that they intend to return home at the end of their proposed visit.”
“Our rules are firm but fair and where insufficient evidence is provided visa applications may be refused, though the individual is able to apply again at any time and any new evidence will be considered.”
UKBA denies that Nabagesera’s LGBT advocacy was a factor in their decision.
Despite UKBA’s decision, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera has strong ties to the LGBT community in Uganda, and she has travelled abroad numerous times as part of her advocacy, returning every time to her were back home. She spoke last weekend at an international meeting of Amnesty International in Geneva. Earlier this year, she wasawarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights by a consortium of ten international organizations. In May, she debated Ugandan MP David Bahati, the sponsor of draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill on Voice of America television. Last week, Nabagesera led a major educational campaign in Uganda to counter the widespread homophobia in that country. In other words, none of this looks like the profile of someone who flees a country at the first opportunity. Nabagesera clearly has ties and commitments in Uganda, and her commitments have been recognized internationally. All of this makes UKBA’s decision very puzzling and troubling.